When the season started in 2014, and the rotation started a mess emigration to the DL, it looked like déjà vu all over again. The injury plague was going to end all hope for the year. Surprisingly, the pitching rotation did not do too badly, especially after making some key acquisitions. Therefore, as we look to 2015, here is our view on who should stay, who should go, and who should be on the development plan for the future.
When talking about the guys that need to stay, you have to talk about 3 guys to build around: Brandon McCarthy, Masahiro Tanaka, and Michael Pineda. McCarthy was on the road to nowhere, sporting a 3-10 record and a 5.01 ERA. He arrived in the Bronx, and turned it around in a major way. We often talk about guys who cannot pitch here. McCarthy can pitch here, and he has a 7-5 record and a 2.89 ERA to prove it. At age 30, he has a lot of runway in front of him, and we need to sign him and build around him.
Michael Pineda comes with a high risk of injury, but if he stays healthy, he can make a serious impact. Thirteen starts and a 1.89 ERA indicate that he is a force to be reckoned with. In case you are worried about that 5-5 record, note that the Yankees never scored more than one run in any of those five losses. Nine of those 13 starts were quality starts. When he pitches, the Yankees are always in a position to win. He is a definite keeper.
Masahiro Tanaka was the imminent Cy Young Award winner going into the All-Star break. In fact, he did not have a single non-quality start until July. Then that injury curse reared its ugly head. If his elbow stays healthy, he is the clear ace of the staff. Nevertheless, I will not lie to you – he looked dreadful in that last start in Fenway. It really makes me wonder about the condition of his UCL. If reconstructive surgery is in his near future, Tanaka is not in ours for 2015. Enough said.
C.C. Sabathia has been the nominal ace for the staff ever since he signed prior to the 2009 season. The 2015 plan has to include him, but his durability is in question, not to mention his productivity. Let’s be honest – he hasn’t looked like an ace since at least May 2013. The pitcher who threw for 15-20 wins and an ERA in the low 3’s turned into a 50/50 pitcher with an ERA in the high 4’s to low 5’s. The hope is that it was all due to the injuries in his knees and ankles. Still, the Yankees have $23M flowing his way, so they have to put him in and hope he returns to his expected form.
That leaves 1-2 slots for the Yankees to use to develop the young guys. They should start with David Phelps. In 17 starts, he had a 5-5 record with a 4.28 ERA and less than HR/9 innings pitched. He had flashes brilliance, with some bad starts that are typical for a young pitcher. He needs some team investment.
They should also go with Shane Green, which would round out the starting five if either Sabathia or Tanaka were not healthy. Green had a 5-4 record, a 3.78 ERA, and 9.3 K/9. At age 25, he is already establishing himself as a strikeout pitcher, and needs get the ball every 5th day. Chase Whitley gets an honorable mention here, though he is still developing. He was brilliant in his first five starts, but still has some room to grow, and he best fits in a middle-relief / spot-starter role. I would love to mention Ivan Nova here, because I think he has tremendous potential, but he is returning from Tommy John surgery, and it is hard to put together firm plans that depend on him being ready to go.
We love Hiroki Kuroda, but let’s be honest. He will turn 40 just before spring training, and the future of the organization may not rest with him. I think he can still pitch, but he is not at the level where we have to keep him. Chris Capuano was a one-year rental. While we appreciate his efforts – which were not too bad at all – he is not a person around which to build a rotation.
The good news here is that many injured players are returning, and the Yankees should have a lot to build on. It will all depend on players staying healthy, coaches doing their jobs, and giving the kids a chance.
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
My blog is: Shots from Murderer's Row
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